The Summoning (J.P Smith) @JPSmith8 @PPPress

As the weather has begun to finally cool off, I have been in a serious mood for fall.  Snickerdoodles, pumpkin cream cold brew and, of course, spooky reads.  I immediately chose The Summoning by J.P Smith and it was exactly what my mood ordered. 

The concept of the novel drew me right in: Kit, an out of work actress turned con woman, who uses the obituaries to fuel her business as a medium.  However, something begins to change, and Kit starts to feel unsettled as her seances begin to feel more real.  As the tagline for the novel states, when it comes to contacting the dead, it’s easy to go a step too far. 

I am usually hesitant with any type of paranormal thriller since it is very easy for the plot to become a.) too convoluted b.) too far-fetched and hokey or c.) a quick start with a disappointing ending.  I was pleased to find out that this novel had none of those issues.   

Smith chooses to lay out the story with a multi-perspective narration that was really was a treat.  Between Kit’s inner workings of her business and her panic as things begin to unravel, and the police who are zoning in and then surprised to find themselves wrapped up in something paranormal, I was completely engaged.  The novel is definitely more of a slower burn at the beginning and, to be honest, I didn’t find Kit very likeable initially; however, this characterization is exactly what made me want to keep reading.  I am always in awe at authors who can create characters that make me feel conflicted, and I absolutely had a strong reaction to Kit. For such a short read (coming in at around 300 pages), I was expecting the story to be fairly straightforward. However, I was wrong. I was pleased with Smith’s ability to keep me guessing and was genuinely shocked by the ending.

This read just felt like fall and, to me, that is one of the highest compliments.  I’d absolutely recommend this one.

Book Review: We Were Never Here (Andrea Bartz)

Does anyone else seem to be suckered into popular book recommendations? Oprah suggests it? Sure. On a list from the New York Times? Seems legit to me? Reese Witherspoon gives it her stamp of approval? Sign me up! That is how I came to read We Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz.

Essentially, the novel follows a pair of BFFs, Emily and Kristen, on their yearly backpacking trip to Chile. All is going well until Emily arrives back to her hotel room and finds her friend covered in blood with the backpacker she had been flirting with dead on the floor. Shockingly, this isn’t the first time this has happened. From here, we get insight into Emily’s trauma and a seriously bad vibe about Kristen.

Having never read the author’s previous books, I was really pleased to find out I enjoyed the writing style of Bartz; I felt like she had a nice flow and I was able to get into the story pretty much immediately. It was a very quick read; I was able to binge it fairly quickly. Which was lucky for me since I had to have it read for my book club and I have a six month old baby, so my time is scarce! The concept of the book had me intrigued, however, the characters left much to be desired. I didn’t really care about either girl. They were both pretty unlikeable- which I guess was the point. Both gave me the same type of Gone Girl vibes as Amy. Manipulative, edgy and surely a threat.

Now, while I enjoyed the writing style and the intentional character flaws, I really did this there was a TON of repetition in this book that was not necessary. I feel like it could have been 100 pages shorter and still have had the same effect. I found myself skimming some paragraphs or finding myself become disengaged with the story because it just felt like I had read something similar the chapter prior. I also found the ending to be very abrupt and rushed.

Overall, it was a quick read, but not my favourite.

Book Review: Survivor Song (Paul Tremblay) @paulGtremblay @WmMorrowBooks

survivor songIf I were to write a how-to novel, I’d title it “How to Ramp Up Your Anxiety During A Global Pandemic: A Definitive Guide”, I think I would start it with this list:

Watch World War Z.
Watch Contagion.
Think about doom.
Read Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay.

Now I realize that this book was in the making LONGGGG before Covid19, but what is going on around the world makes this a particularly pertinent read. As soon as I read the first few pages, I was filled with an uneasy feeling. Thank goodness that is exactly one of the qualities I look for in a book.

The novel opens with a discussion of a new strain of rabies virus in Massachusetts; one that causes effects within an hour of being bitten. It causes the victim to become extremely violent and lose their mind.
Sounds peachy.
Nat, who happens to be 9 months pregnant, is waiting for her husband to return from the grocery store with rations when they are both attacked upon his arrival. He is killed, and she is left with a nasty bite to her arm. With nowhere else to go, she calls her friend from college, a pediatric surgeon to help her. Ramola is tasked with trying to stop the virus from consuming her friend and trying to save the life of her unborn baby.

One of the things I liked the most about this book was that it was straightforward; Tremblay promised a zombie-rabies filled story and that is what he delivered. Do I wish there were a few more twists and turns? Maybe. Essentially, what is in the synopsis is what the story delivers. However, I felt like the story was well written enough that I constantly felt entertained. Almost like when I read the Wikipedia summary of a movie before I watch it; even though I knew what was coming, it didn’t stop me from enjoying it.

It is obvious to anyone who is familiar with his work that Tremblay is a master storyteller and within the first chapter, I found myself settled right into the story. Essentially, the perspective shifts back and forth between two kick-ass female protagonists, Nat and Ramola (Rams). This narration becomes key to the story and the development was what made this plot particularity interesting. As Rams become more panicked, Nat becomes more unravelled and Tremblay makes some smart narrative choices to make this clear.

I binged this one in a couple of hours; literally could not put it down. Absolutely recommended from me!

 

Thanks to the author and the publisher for a digital copy of this book to help me give an unbiased review.

Book Review: Allegedly (Tiffany D. Jackson) @WriteinBK @KTegenBooks

image0

Struggling with book burnout? Finding yourself in a slump? I have found a cure. Allegedly, by Tiffany D. Jackson, is the answer. I have not read a book like this one in a LONGGGG time. I sat down to read a chapter and found myself completely consumed. I finished it in a single afternoon and then frantically began texting my friends to persuade them to READ THIS BOOK.

Set eight years after her alleged crime, Mary is just as confused and hopeless as she struggles to find her place in a group home for other “troubled” girls. After allegedly killing an infant at 8 years old, Mary’s life seems to be laid out for her. With not many options and her privacy sensationalized by the media, Mary is just trying to survive. Until she finds out she is pregnant. Surviving is no longer the priority. Proving what really happened is. And, after all, Mary never did say what really happened…

I think what pulled me in immediately was the narrative style of the novel. The novel is told through the eyes of Mary as she struggles to survive and cope with past trauma. There are also little bits and pieces that are excerpts that are psych reports from Mary’s case, police reports and interviews and novels published about Mary’s life. The narrative style is so well crafted; Jackson creates a narrator who completely multifaceted; she is both naive, and wise beyond her ears, kind and vicious, fearless and frightened. As I was reading I continued to go back and forth, trying to decide if I could trust their character, or if I needed to be wary of her. I was totally on her side as I read, but then would read one of those little excerpts and wonder if I should trust her. I will not give away the ending of the story, but, I will say that by the end of the novel, I was left completely satisfied. With this level of characterization and storytelling, I was shocked to find out this novel was the author’s debut!!

Now, I will be the first to say that I struggle with Young Adult fiction, and this novel is published by a YA publisher. However, this didn’t feel young AT ALL. While the main character is sixteen, I never felt like I was reading something too young for me. I’m not sure if it was the level of characterization or the content, but I was glued to the pages.

I highly, highly recommend; 5 star read.

BRB running to buy everything by Tiffany D. Jackson.

Trigger warning: there is some content related to trauma (sexual and physical abuse).

New Adventure

Well, during this pandemic, I’ve decided to try my hand at podcasting!  I do love blogging, but, in recent times, I’ve been struggling to read and blog as I used to!

My long time friend and I have decided to team up and start “Better Late Than Novel”

Screen Shot 2020-05-26 at 4.37.47 PM

Synopsis: 

We are two Canadian book lovers who will never make it through our “to be read” piles.  We could talk about books all day and we want to discuss them with you! 

Each week we will talk about current book news, and what we’re reading.  

Tune in each week for a new episode featuring our “top five picks” list of books you should read.  Topics could range from our favourite comfort reads, top “on the edge of your seat” reads or books to satisfy your royal family obsession. 

 

You can listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Anchor.

Book Review: Providence (Caroline Kepnes)

Screen Shot 2020-02-19 at 8.41.10 PM

Synopsis: 

Growing up as best friends in small-town New Hampshire, Jon and Chloe are the only ones who truly understand each other, though they can never find the words to tell one another the depth of their feelings. When Jon is finally ready to confess his feelings, he’s suddenly kidnapped by his substitute teacher who is obsessed with H.P. Lovecraft and has a plot to save humanity.

Mourning the disappearance of Jon and facing the reality he may never return, Chloe tries to navigate the rites of entering young adulthood and “fit in” with the popular crowd, but thoughts of Jon are never far away.

When Jon finally escapes, he discovers he now has an uncontrollable power that endangers anyone he has intense feelings for. He runs away to protect Chloe and find the answers to his new identity—but he’s soon being tracked by a detective who is fascinated by a series of vigilante killings that appear connected.

Whisking us on a journey through New England and crashing these characters’ lives together in the most unexpected ways, Kepnes explores the complex relationship between love and identity, unrequited passion and obsession, self-preservation and self-destruction, and how the lines are often blurred between the two.

My Thoughts: 

Well, I made a mistake with this one.

It happens to the best of us.

You see an author that your LOVE and you dive into a book expecting it to give you all the same feels.

Unfortunately, I didn’t consider (even after reading the synopsis) that this novel would NOT contain Joe Goldberg.  The anti-hero from YOU and Hidden Bodies that I have come to know and (pretty much against my free will) love.

This novel is COMPLETELY different from Kepnes’ prior novels.  It is like comparing apples and oranges; and that, my friends, was probably my first mistake.  I went into this one thinking I would get the dark and twisty vibe that I have come to know and love, but Providence is really a hodgepodge of all different types of genres: a little bit paranormal, a dash of coming of age, a pinch of YA thriller.

I think Kepnes is fearless for doing something SO different, but, it wasn’t for me. I didn’t understand all the Lovecraft references and I don’t really love YA (I teach high school students- I get enough teen drama on the daily).

Overall, I would probably recommend this to my students or add it to my classroom library.

I’ll continue waiting for more Joe.

Book Review: Under My Skin (Lisa Unger)

Screen Shot 2020-02-19 at 8.39.40 PM

Synopsis:

What if the nightmares are actually memories?

It’s been a year since Poppy’s husband, Jack, was brutally murdered during his morning run through Manhattan’s Riverside Park. In the immediate aftermath, Poppy spiraled into an oblivion of grief, disappearing for several days only to turn up ragged and confused wearing a tight red dress she didn’t recognize. What happened to Poppy during those lost days? And more importantly, what happened to Jack?

The case was never solved, and Poppy has finally begun to move on. But those lost days have never stopped haunting her. Poppy starts having nightmares and blackouts–there are periods of time she can’t remember, and she’s unable to tell the difference between what is real and what she’s imagining. When she begins to sense that someone is following her, Poppy is plunged into a game of cat and mouse, determined to unravel the mystery around her husband’s death. But can she handle the truth about what really happened?

My Thoughts: 

I  have been a huge fan of Lisa Unger for YEARS!   Give me a psychological thriller with a relatable character, and I am a happy camper!

Unfortunately, this one didn’t do it for me.

For the majority of the book, I found myself confused.  I was switching back and forth, checking dates and trying to organize the plot in my head.  I felt like a detective myself putting a red string on a board trying to connect my theories.   Is this okay?  Sure.  Sometimes I really like to be challenged while I read, but, honestly, sometimes I just want to escape and don’t want to have to piece things together.

Sometimes I want a straight forward thrill.

Did this put me off of Lisa Unger?  Absolutely not. Her talent is clearly apparent and this woman can WEAVE a story.  I will absolutely read more by her, but, this one wasn’t for me.

 

Book Review: The Fifth to Die (J.D Barker)

Screen Shot 2020-02-19 at 8.26.20 PM

Synopsis:

In the thrilling sequel to The Fourth Monkey, a new serial killer stalks the streets of Chicago, while Detective Porter delves deeper into the dark past of the Four Monkey Killer.

Detective Porter and the team have been pulled from the hunt for Anson Bishop, the Four Monkey Killer, by the feds. When the body of a young girl is found beneath the frozen waters of Jackson Park Lagoon, she is quickly identified as Ella Reynolds, missing three weeks. But how did she get there? The lagoon froze months earlier. More baffling? She’s found wearing the clothes of another girl, missing less than two days. While the detectives of Chicago Metro try to make sense of the quickly developing case, Porter secretly continues his pursuit of 4MK, knowing the best way to find Bishop is to track down his mother. When the captain finds out about Porter’s activities, he’s suspended, leaving his partners Clair and Nash to continue the search for the new killer alone.

Obsessed with catching Bishop, Porter follows a single grainy photograph from Chicago to the streets of New Orleans and stumbles into a world darker than he could have possibly imagined, where he quickly realizes that the only place more frightening than the mind of a serial killer is the mind of the mother from which he came.

My Thoughts: 

When I read The Fourth Monkey, I was obsessed.

I lent it to all my friends.

I made my boss at work read it.

I was a woman on a mission.

After a long wait, I finally read The Fifth to Die, and, while I loved the pacing and the dark vibes, I really struggled to STAY engrossed in the sequel. 

Now, don’t get me wrong.  It was just as brilliantly written, and I still love some Sam Porter, but there was a lot going on!  Almost too much going on.   Many more perspectives, many more storylines and, just as I thought I was getting everything straight, it was over!

I do think this one is worth the read; however, I think I’d read them back to back so I could follow along.

This isn’t one to go into blindly!

Thanks for Netgalley for the digital copy. 

Book Review: Recursion (Blake Crouch)

Screen Shot 2019-07-01 at 9.31.28 PM

Way back when I first started blogging, I read and reviewed Dark Matter which quickly became one of my favourites! As a person who rarely reads novels with a science fiction vibe, I was shocked by how much I loved it.  I raved about it.  I shouted from the rooftops. I reread it.

So, at the end of my school year, when I realized that Blake Crouch was releasing Recursion, I rushed to add this one to my summer TBR and I dove in.

Like Dark Matter, Recursion is a novel that bent the line between reality and fiction leaving me uneasy…and I loved it!  Essentially looking at the idea of memory and recalling memories, Recursion follows a scientist, Helena, and a cop, Barry, as they navigate lives, past lives and memories.  Fast paced and thrilling, the novel moves back and forth through narrative view and time.  As their stories collide (along with their past and present memories), I found myself flipping through the pages and completely hooked!

My one complaint with this work is that I felt like it was about 100 pages too long.  I loved the pacing at the beginning, and I found that I needed all the explanations; however, by the end, I felt the story dragging and stalling without reason.   I was frustrated with the continuous repetition by the main characters, and, even though I understand the plot relied on this repetition, I felt like I could have done without a few of the minor story arcs.

Regardless of my length issue, I did feel like this one would be a great read for summer.  I lounged around my patio for countless hours devoured by this storyline.

4 stars.

Would I want this as a series on Netflix?  ABSOLUTELY!  Give me this story a hundred times over in a mini-series.  I want this explained in flashbacks.  I want this story developed by actors.  Someone breakdown this science!